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February 20, 2003 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2003-02-20

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Thursday
February , 2003
michigandaily.com
sportsdesk@umich.edu

PORirioSa 4TSti

5A

CHRIS
BURKE

Sole train

Cagers steal road victory
and first place at Purdue

Forget about age; Horton

is Big Ten b
W EST LAFAYETTE - Daniel
Horton is the Big Ten Player
of the Year.
That is to say, Horton should be Play-
er of the Year, and the Michigan fresh-
man proved just how much he deserves
it last night at Purdue.
In the biggest game Michigan has
played in years, Horton put on a clinic.
Time and time again, he wowed the
Mackey Arena crowd on his way to a
career-high 31 points. More importantly,
his play keyed a 78-67 Michigan win
that gives the Wolverines - you might
want to sit down here - sole possession
of first place in the Big Ten with four
games to play after an improbable Wis-
consin loss at Penn State.
"Obviously, without (Horton's) play,
we're not having a happy lockerroom
right now," Michigan coach Tommy
Amaker said.
The Wolverines had entered the game
worried about how to shut down Pur-
due's conference Player of the Year can-
didate, Willie Deane.
Turns out Deane wasn't even the best
player on the floor last night, let alone in
the conference this year.
Horton scored 21 of the Wolverines'
42 points for a 13-point halftime lead.
He was smooth and confident, and
clearly quicker than anyone Purdue
threw out there to try and defend him.
The Boilermakers rallied in the second
half, though, as every desperate team
will in a conference game.
But with the lead having dwindled
down to 57-52, Horton calmly readjust-
ed his grip and threw Michigan back on
top of his young shoulders, drilling a 3-
pointer to end Purdue's comeback.
"We tried to wear him down, put dif-
ferent people on him, play some zone,"
Purdue coach Gene Keady said. "But
he's just a great player, we didn't have an
answer for him."
Of course, you can't win any game by
yourself- let alone a road game
against a first-place team.
Senior LaVell Blanchard, hobbled by
a sore ankle, still finished with 20 points

)est player
and seven rebounds, including a clutch
3-pointer with Purdue still trying to
mount a late rally.
Guard Lester Abram tossed in 13
points, and forward Bernard Robinson
had six points, seven rebounds and four
assists despite being in foul trouble.
Even with all of that, though, the
Wolverines would not have been in posi-
tion for a road win - check that - they
would not be in position for a Big Ten
title without the older-than-his-years
play of a cocky freshman from Texas.
Anyone who didn't know that before
yesterday sure found out.
"I was just trying to make plays," Hor-
ton said. "They were denying the wings
so hard that I had to do something."
And because of that, the Wolverines
are now in position to do something -
win their first Big Ten title since 1986.
Daniel Horton hadn't even turned two
when that happened.
But now he's all grown up, and last
See BURKE, Page 7A

By Daniel Bremmer
Daily Sports Writer

WEST LAFAYETTE - The Michi-
gan basketball team may not be going to
the NCAA Tournament following its
regular season. But MC__GAN ____
last night, it played
like a team that is
definitely worthy of a tournament bid,
knocking off No. 24 Purdue 78-67 at
Mackey Arena.
The Boilermakers were previously
BIG TEN STANDINGS
Conference Overall
Team W L W L
Michigan 9 3 16 9
Wisconsin 8 4 18 6
Purdue 8 4 16 7
Minnesota 7 4 15 7
Illinois 6 4 16 5
Michigan State 6 5 14 9
Indiana 6 6 16 9
Iowa 5 6 13 9
Ohio State 5 7 12 11
Northwestern 2 10 10 13.
Penn State 1 10 6 16

undefeated this season at home, but the
Wolverines (9-3 Big Ten, 16-9 overall)
came ready to play from the tip, improv-
ing their Big Ten road record to 3-3.
"We aren't eligible for the NCAAs,
but we can always deserve it," Michigan
coach Tommy Amaker said. "Although
we're not eligible, we understand the
reasons why, and we support the deci-
sions made by our school."
Coupled with Penn State's victory
over Wisconsin, Michigan is now in the
conference driver's seat, alone atop the
Big Ten standings and making a state-
ment to the rest of the league.
After cutting a 13-point halftime
deficit to four with just over nine min-
utes to go, the Boilermakers struggled to
get any closer. Following a missed run-
ner in the lane from Michigan freshman
Daniel Horton, Purdue guard Willie
Deane - the second leading scorer in
the Big Ten - missed on both attempts
from the free throw line, which could
have cut the deficit to two. Then on the
other end, forward LaVell Blanchard
drained a 3-pointer from the corner to
extend the Michigan lead to 57-50.

RYAN WEIP
Daniel Horton drives to the hole in the Wolverines' 78-67 win over Purdue.

Purdue (8-4, 16-7) later made another
run to cut the Michigan lead to five fol-
lowing a 3-pointer from David Teague.
But Blanchard refused to let his team go
down. Hindered by a first-half ankle
sprain, the Michigan senior canned an
open three to put Michigan up 65-57.

Blanchard came up big for Michigan
following poor outings in the team's last
two road games, when he posted nine
and eight points in road losses to Min-
nesota and Indiana, respectively.
"He was hobbling a little bit, but he
See BOILERMAKERS, Page 7A

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